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Dhoni's optimum use of bowlers

Rakesh Rao
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On the batting front, the captain has reasons to feel a bit worried when chasing

BOOSTING THE MORALE: M.S. Dhoni is trying to give confidence to his slower bowlers such as Piyush Chawla (left) in the World Cup. — Photo: S. Subramanium
BOOSTING THE MORALE: M.S. Dhoni is trying to give confidence to his slower bowlers such as Piyush Chawla (left) in the World Cup. — Photo: S. Subramanium

Only the other day, Kapil Dev was asked during a function in the Capital: Can Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with the available bowling options, hope to bring back the World Cup?

The 1983 World Cup-winning captain, fully aware of Dhoni's limited resources at hand, backed the captain. “The selectors have given Dhoni the best available team. Everyone seems to think our attack is not good enough. But Dhoni is confident of taking the team all the way with the help of this attack. And that is important.”

Kapil, obviously, had read Dhoni's mind better than most followers of Indian cricket.

With slow bowling proving to be the most effective weapon, especially the leg-spin of Shahid Afridi and Imran Tahir, so far in the competition, Dhoni is trying to give confidence to his slower bowlers.

Take the example of Piyush Chawla, the target of several former cricketers and experts in the media. Undeterred, Dhoni has persisted with the leggie. Indeed, the confidence of the captain is what a youngster needs the most, more a learning practitioner of leg-spin.

Scheme of things

Chawla surely fits into Dhoni's scheme of things. In spite of some ordinary effort against Ireland, Chawla retained his spot against the Netherlands and went on to provide the breakthrough, with a beauty of a delivery. Though Chawla was smashed for 17 runs in his last over, Dhoni must be pleased with the youngster.

Another interesting thing is how Dhoni is using the left-arm spin of Yuvraj Singh.

Though Dhoni maintains that “ideally, we should go with two medium pacers and two specialist spinners,” he is getting Yuvraj to bowl his full quota.

Clearly, in Dhoni's plans, Yuvraj is now indispensable.

Unlike Yuvraj, Yusuf Pathan has so far fallen short of contributing both with the bat and ball. But that has not discouraged Dhoni.

On Tuesday, he declared that he wanted the explosive Baroda-man to bat longer to be better prepared for the bigger battles ahead. Not surprisingly, Pathan batted at No. 3. However, he failed to fire once again.

As far as Pathan's off-spinners are concerned, Dhoni can afford to use him sparingly, with Harbhajan Singh managing to contain the batsmen.

Before long, the man from Jalandhar would be expected to strike big, something which he has not very consistently done at home for a long time.

Whether R. Ashwin gets to play against South Africa and the West Indies remains to be seen. It is difficult to imagine Dhoni using three off-spinners in one game! Though the young man from Tamil Nadu offers a different variety than Harbhajan and Pathan, Dhoni may not try and disturb the balance of the team. After all, by now everyone knows that Dhoni can be quite rigid, at times.

In the pace department, Dhoni did ‘test' Ashish Nehra on his home turf. Irrespective of the quality of opposition, Nehra still looked a bit rusty during his two short spells. Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, too, was used sparingly on Wednesday, with Dhoni surely saving him for the tougher battles.

Munaf Patel, the country's most successful medium pacer in the competition so far, earned a well-deserved rest. But S. Sreesanth will have to wait to play again in this Cup since Dhoni has almost run out of opportunities to experiment.

On the batting front, Dhoni has reasons to feel a bit worried when chasing targets. So far, the batsmen have appeared comfortable while setting targets. However, looking at the bigger matches ahead, it will be interesting to see how the batsmen respond to a target in excess of 300. That will, indeed, be the true test of Indian batting, especially in pressure matches.

And Dhoni knows it only too well.

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